Hartland beats Howell for fourth time to claim seventh district title in eight years
South Lyon – A season ago Hartland watched its season come to an end in a district game against Howell, which defeated Hartland four times last season.
One year later, Hartland was not only looking to turn the tables and pick up its fourth win of the season over Howell, but the Eagles were also in search of their seventh district title in eight years.
Hartland would get out to a strong start thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Graysen Cockerham that helped give the Eagles a 10-0 after the first quarter, add to this an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter, and Hartland pull away for a 46-24 victory in a Class A district final at South Lyon East on Friday.
“Last year, I tell everybody, 15-5 never felt so bad, we lost four to Howell, four great games and we lost them all and we lost to Arbor Prep,” Hartland coach Don Palmer said. “So this year’s a little more satisfying, not because you beat Howell four times, but you won something while doing it. It’s a little more self-fulfilling, I don’t think I’ll ever get over last year, but this will help.”
With the win, Hartland (22-1) advances to a regional semifinal where the Eagles will face Farmington Hills Mercy, which held on for a 32-30 victiry over North Farmington in its district final on Friday.
After building a 22-9 lead early in the third quarter, Hartland led by just eight heading to the fourth quarter after the Highlanders finished the third on a 7-2 run, which included five points from junior Leah Weslock.
But Hartland would kick off the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run, with five points coming from senior Michelle Moraitis and four from senior Lexey Tobel to give Hartland a comfortable 35-16 lead.
Howell (18-4) head coach Tom Olszewski said that after falling behind, he knew his team would have to play near perfect basketball in order to come back, but after gaining momentum in the third quarter, Hartland managed to force turnovers and pull away for good.
“The thing is that you have to play almost flawless at that point” he said. “When we had it cut to nine at the start of the fourth, with the ball, we had momentum, we were starting to build and if we hit a three, it’s a six point game. But instead, we have a turnover and now it’s 11 and another turnover and it’s 13 and it’s a snowball effect.”
Tobel, who finished with a game-high 16 points, said that she felt it was her team’s defensive play in the fourth quarter that made the difference for the Eagles as they keyed in on Weslock.
“We went to a 1-3-1 (defense) instead of a man, and I think that definitely helped,” she said. “Weslock started to take over, so we started to help a lot on her and try to stop her the best that we could.”
In the first quarter, it was Cockerham who set the tone for the Eagles as she accounted for eight of Hartland’s 10 first quarter points. After scoring five points, Cockerham suffered an eye injury and stayed in the game briefly as she accounted for a second 3-pointer, but left the game shortly after and did not return.
“I was feeling it in warmups,” said Cockerham, who said she hopes to return for the regional semifinals next week. “I was able to get open at the very beginning of the game and I was able to knock down my first few shots.”